Sleep is the perfect answer to a day marked by hard work and overeating, and sleep i did. I had a long day ahead. We were to leave Guwahati and head across the Brahmaputra to the north bank and follow the National Highway 52 to Tezpur with a halt at the Madan Kamdev Temple. From Tezpur, we were to cross the Brahmaputra again to the south bank over the Kalia Bhomora Bridge and join National Highway 37 to Kohora in Kaziranga National Park.
We turned right from NH 52 at the village of Baihata Chariali and continued on a unpaved road for two kms to reach the base of the hill on top of which is the Madan Kamdev Temple. None of the seven temples in the complex are extant and are identifies by their plinth and foundation and the numerous exquisite sculptural fragments. The misty morning air and the strangely golden vegetation made for rather interesting ambiance.
After about an hour at Madan Kamdev, we resumed our onward journey towards Tezpur. The roads passed through Assam’s idyllic rural heartland. We kept stopping every now and then to capture the life around us.
Tezpur was wrapped up at a feverish pace and we could not wait to reach Kaziranga. We were to stop here for the night and were booked at the Jhupuri Ghor, a resort run by Assam Tourism. The resort consisted of a number of independent cottages built in the traditional style with cane and bamboo. We checked in around 2:30 in the afternoon and took off immediately to the Baghori range for a jeep safari.
The safari took us the the westernmost range of the park, Baghori. When we met the Managing Director of Assam Tourism for dinner on the first night, he had told us that “Rhinos in Kaziranga are like cattle… they graze everywhere”. At first we thought that we was simply building it up for us, but then when we spotted four rhinos from the highway itself, we started getting hopeful.
Rhino spotting seems to be the easiest thing at Kaziranga. I actually saw so many of them that by the end of it i started wondering if there are any other animals except them. At one point of time, i was staring at a field and i could count 26 of them. No, but seriously, it was amazing. Considering this is one of the few places in the world, you can see the Indian, Rhino, may their numbers increase ever so steadily. The Managing Director was right. He was not only building it up for us, but was complimenting himself on a job very well done!
After the delightful evening in Kaziranga, went to check out some of the local hotels and collect the details for inclusion into the book. One place that stood out was Wild Grass Resort. It had a small hut which acted as a namghor (a place of worship for Assamese Vaishnavites) where a priest was reading the kirtan (devotional hymns). The feel of the place was completely out of the world and i could not resist clicking some.
That was that for the day. Tomorrow we are to head eastwards towards our next destination, Jorhat.
The next morning, we could afford to conduct our businesses at a more relaxed pace as our next destination, Jorhat was only 97 kms away. But as is the rule, we never travel at one go. We stop for pictures,conversation and most critically, food!
Anyway, our first stop en route Jorhat was a little village on the way. The village was populated by people of the Mishing tribe. They have lived for centuries along the basin of the Brahmaputra and their history, culture and tradition are intricately linked to the great river. The trademark of Mishing people are their unique houses. Built on stilts, the houses help avoid the rising water levels of the river during the floods.
After the Mishing village we stopped at a little eatery in Bokakhat, the last settlement in Kaziranga and ordered puri sabzi. Interestingly it came on banana leaves and was accompanied by a very hot, and very tasty chilly achar.
Around 25 kms from Bokakhat, after the town of Dergaon is a small village called Negheriting. It is home to a dol (derived from deul, meaning temple) built in the 17th century by the Ahom kings in the panchayatana ( where the main shrine is accompanied by four subsidiary shrines, usually in the four cardinal directions) style. Located on top of a hill, the main garbhagriha enshrines a shivalinga while the four subsidiary shines were dedicated to Durga, Vishnu, Surya and Ganesh.
By the time we reached Jorhat it was well past 2 in the afternoon and we decided to go pay a visit to the Hoolock Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, 20 kms from Jorhat. As the name suggests, the park protects India’s only ape, the Hoolock Gibbon. We did not see any apes but i got some interesting pics.
Well, folks, that is as much as i got for you this time. Next up, we discover more of Jorhat and the amazing Shivaagar.